The M.E is on a brink. Jordanian Monarch King Hussein, the closest Arab leader to Israeli premier Netanyahu, said in a letter to Netanyahu "you are destroying the peace process. I do not trust you.". He warned him of "an explosion of the peace process unless the settlement plan is dropped". The PLO chairman Yasser Arafat invited US, European and Arab envoys to a meeting in Gaza on Saturday to discuss the brewing crisis since Netanyahu approved the plan to build new Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem.
Israeli foreign minister David Levy warned "Any attempt at international intervention will lead to a freeze in the peace process". Arafat, feeling the frustration of the Palestinian street and among his PLO colleagues, is trying to rally support at the UN and among western and Muslim countries for halting the settlement, but he is determined to avert eruption of violence.
Under such confusing situation, Lebanon is awared of an outbreak of violence in south Lebanon to overshadow the confusion over Jerusalem's settlement. Israel lodged a new complaint against Lebanon after an Israeli soldier wounded in a car bomb explosion near the Markaba village inside the security zone. The 5 nation ceasefire monitoring committee is to convene tomorrow at 11.00 at the UN H.Q at Naqoura to discuss the complaint. The Israeli new complaint, with it's content and pretext, will be discussed today by the foreign minister and Lebanese delegation to the monitoring panel. Israel said the booby trapped car inside the security zone violated the truce. The car was rigged with 50 kgs of explosives and detonated by a remote control. Three Lebanese civilians were wounded in the explosion too.
The UNIFIL spokesman in south Lebanon Timor Goxyl said yesterday the Israeli pull back from Kfarfalous is a minor military redeployment not a withdrawal, and those who carried it perhaps have not enough personnel to protect the posts they are going to evict. Two Israeli navy vessels reported to have come close to the coast of Damour and Saadiyat south of Beirut, and Israeli helicopters flew over the coast at 10.00 p.m . The Israeli artillery bombarded the Litani river course and Habouche and Kfarruman with 155 mm shells. The Israeli forces cordoned off the village of Houla near Markaba and raided houses in a search round up. Some 20 SLA recruits attempted to desert and flee away from Houla but the Israeli forces discovered the attempt and chased the deserters with it's helicopters.
The developments in the M.E, the recent shuttles by European envoys, and the local situation in Lebanon, were among the topics discussed yesterday between Lebanon's speaker Nabih Berri and president Hafez Assad. The 5 hour long meeting with president Assad has fuelled speculations in Beirut of an imminent conciliation between speaker Berri and president Hrawi after a four month strain and public bickering. Governmental sources in Beirut were earlier confident that Hrawi-Berri meeting will take place upon return of the speaker to Beirut. News predicted that the meeting will take place on verge of the 14th March occasion tomorrow.
Mr Berri met in Damascus over a working launch the Syrian V.P Abdel Halim Khaddam and held talks with Gen Ghazi Kanaan at Anjar before returning to Beirut. The Syrian officials urged Lebanese leaders to rise above their personal fueds and close their ranks to face the challenges arising from the M.E deadlocked peace talks.
As Syria reported to welcome the growing European interest in reviving the M.E stalled peace talks, Lebanon diplomatic sources said the European envoy Moratinos' proposal for full security for full withdrawal is a slogan not a formula for resuming negotiations. Moratinos could not answer to a question by Lebanon foreign minister about what is meant by "full security" and if it involve giving Israel a say in the security arrangements in Arab lands it would vacate.
The Lebanese diplomacy said Moratinos, and before him de Charette, did not offer specific mechanism to restart the peace talks, but however, the Europeans are showing concern at a time the US peace efforts are frozen. The US did not respond yet to Moratinos proposal, perhaps because the US is reluctant to discourage the Europeans. The Lebanese official National News Agency said the peace issue is delicate and all the slogans and suggestions are above the table since nobody is interested to deal with it in secrecy. It noted that even the Europeans admit their role is complementary to the US role.
The Lebanese circles expect a short coming tour by the US peace coordinator Dennis Ross but they do not anticipate any US new proposal before summer. They regard Netanyahu as an abnormal case even for the Israelis and the US cannot provide backing to his projects for long time. The Russian ambassador in Beirut said he does not know if the proposal by envoy Moratinos is his personal one or the European Union proposal. He said the M.E peace process was on top agenda of the meetings held in Moscow with Yasser Arafat, Iraq Tarek Aziz, and next month with Prime minister Rafic Hariri. He said his country is in favour of implementing the 425 resolution on Lebanon and against any change in the situation in east Jerusalem, which should be left to the end of the Israeli Palestinian talks which discusses a final status for Jerusalem.
"Minister Walid Jumblat will close down a quarry in Iqlime Kharoub region today and dismiss all labours after settling their due rights", deputy Alaa Terrou, who owns the quarry together with Mr Jumblat, said yesterday. Terrou said he expects the government to close all quarries allover Lebanon, as long it damage environment, or owners to close it unilaterally as Jumblat did, and to import rocks from abroad. Terrou said the problem is not with Jumblat but it is with the state which can decide a guiding plan and closure of the quarries. Terrou also said that Jumblat wants to remove the barriers facing the environment minister Akram Shehayeb, who is with Terrou members of the PSP party. The government is to debate the issue of quarries at an afternoon session today. "the owners of the quarries in Lebanon include ministers and deputies who must comply with regulations", the Beirut representative of the watchdog greenpeace Fouad Hamdan said. Prime minister Hariri, brother of the tourism minister Nicolas Fattouche, and Mr Jumblat are among so many politicians who own quarries in Iqlim Kharoub or elsewhere. The Greenpeace said they should be named publicly in order to pressure them to find a solution.
- President Elias Hrawi, prime minister, state minister for financial affairs Fouad Seniora, economy minister Yassine Jaber, governor of the central bank Riyad Salameh and other economy experts, discussed at a three hour meeting yesterday presided by president Hrawi, the economical and financial situation in Lebanon. The topics discussed, prior to today's session of the council of ministers, included the new scale of salaries for the public sector, the quarries, the Lebanese university, and the code transmission. The meeting was a translation of a proposal that the decisions on economical and financial matters should be consulted and not to be unilaterally decided.. It is a first of series of meetings aim to draw a complementary allover economical strategy.
- Prime minister Hariri said the government is going to launch a new initiative aimed at boosting local and foreign investment, and encourage the growth of agriculture and export oriented industries. He added "we contemplating new economic guidelines, to sponsor the economic situation in general, and industry and agriculture in particular, also to limit the foreign imports. We will focus on industries which promote competitiveness and produce exportable products, he said. The central bank governor Riyad Salameh said the 5 per cent reduction on bank loans for agriculture, tourism and industry was the first step in the programme. Hariri denied they discussed a price increase on Gasoline.
- Salameh gave assurances that the central bank took all the measures to ensure the financial cover for the eurobond issue and there is no problem on that. News reports said the meeting was an indicator that the government admits the current economical crisis.
- Australian deputy prime minister who is also trade minister Timothy Fischer signed with Lebanon's economy minister Yassine Jaber a trade accord, allowing a most favourite nation's status on custom duties, creation of a joint committee for economic, trade, technical cooperation and encouraging commercial development projects. He also signed an agreement allowing the MEA to make two weekly flights to Sydney via Kuala Lumpur in peak season in exchange for reciprocal rights for Australian airlines. Fischer's one day visit to Lebanon ended yesterday as he departed to Jordan.
- Saudi Fund for Development's deputy director Sheikh Mohammed ben Abdullah Suqayr signed with Lebanon CDR president Nabil Jisr yesterday a $4.8mn loan, ninth to Lebanon. The new loan is to finance rebuilding and renovation of 9 public schools and 7 agriculture centres to graduate agriculture technicians and engineer's assistants. The Saudi Fund's official said that out of the $230mn soft loans and grants by the fund, 20 per cent has been designated for the educational sector. The 25 year loan is interest free in the first five years. He said the fund has financed 26 project that amount to $230mn and almost all are finished.
- Lebanon hoteliers syndicate told prime minister at a meeting yesterday that the situation in their sector is facing a crisis and some bankruptcies will occur if no rapid measures are taken. They demanded also be paid their share from the revenues of the Casino du Liban, also to freeze granting more hotels licenses.
- "Investment accord to encourage protect and ensure investments, also prohibit double taxation, is to be signed during The prime minister Hariri's visit to Moscow early April, the ambassador of Russia said yesterday after meeting state minister for financial affairs Fouad Seniora. He said another tourism agreement will be signed too.
-Bank of Beirut is the third Lebanese commercial bank to join the Beirut stock exchange at the end of March after launching a share placement later today worth $10mn. The bank is staging a 10 percent increase of it's capital, or 20 per cent of it's equity, and will raise further a $50mn in three years note, to support it's lending operations. The offer, to open a private placement of 7,200,000 shares or 20 per cent of it's shares, will run until March 25.
-Bekaa farmers continue their second day protest against the government policy on tobacco crop. The government increased the amount of 1996 crop it would buy from farmers from 313 to 400 kgs, while the unlicensed or excess production would be bought at half price. The farmers said they were encouraged to grow tobacco instead of drugs also to grow wheat but both are not economically worth to them.
-Ambassador of Egypt in Lebanon Adel Khodary, at a visit to the foreign ministry yesterday expressed his country's concern over the decision of Lebanon agriculture minister to ban potato imports from his country. He said the potato imports are an important part of the bilateral trade agreement. He said the decision would reflect badly on future commercial relations.
-Japanese security delegate, who came to Beirut last month to follow up the Red Army case, left for Tokyo yesterday, after a brief visit to general prosecutor Adnan Addoum. The defense lawyer of the Japanese five Red Army members said they are in good health. He said he is cooperating with the so many lawyers who volunteered to defend their case. Four members are at Roumieh prison, and the Japanese woman, with the Lebanese Omaya Abboud, are at prison at verdun's Sayyar barrack. A News report in Germany said the arrest of the five has averted a probable attack by the group against the Japanese embassy in Beirut. The attack, according to the German media story was planned to swap the embassy staff with members of the Peru Topac Amaro revolutionaries, who are still holding 72 hostage at the Japanese embassy residence in Lima-Peru.
- Chuf deputy Nabil Bustani criticised the decision taken by the council of ministers, aimed at enforcing the eviction of illegal occupants of properties, according to sentences issued by the prosecution or the judiciary. Bustani said this a reverse to an earlier decision charging the displaced ministry of such mission. He said the eviction will lead to a new displacement since the government did not pay so far the compensations for those occupants in order to repair or rebuild their original houses. Former deputy Marwan Abu Fadel said the issue of the displaced is still in a vicious circle, despite the Millions spent. He said the new government decision is another suppressive action by the government that had cut the powers of the displaced minister and should be corrected.
- Druze deputy Selim Daoud said both ministers Walid Jumblat and Talal Arsalan who represent the Druze community cannot unilaterally decide on the Sheikh Akel issue. He said no substitute for the present acting Sheikh Bahjat Gaith and the issue of this religious post will be open after the Pope's visit to Lebanon.
- The National Gathering opposition group, after a meeting yesterday at the NLP party office, called the government to be ready to fill any security vacuum caused by Israel probable withdrawal from Jezzine. The gathering said the government decision on evicting the displaced is another expression of the careless and misconduct of the government policy on the displaced issue. The gathering called the displaced, namely the mountain displaced, to get ready and be aware to face the new scheme of humiliation, oppression and systematic scheme against them. It said the new decision would be the fuse that will explode the whole social situation.
- Hizbullah deputy S.G Sheikh Naim Kassem said there is no need to fear or worry over the aftermath of Israeli pull back from Jezzine or elsewhere in the occupied territory. He said the people there will live normally same as in the liberated areas. He said the resistance is aimed against the Israeli occupation and not against it's own people. He hilighted the Jezzine people patriotic stand when their young people refused to join the ranks of the SLA militia.
- Smuggling foreigners to Lebanon is almost a daily story. On March 6 Lebanese security raided a hideout in Wadi Khaled at the northern borders where they arrested 59 foreigner on their way to Lebanon. The smuggle of foreigners or the Mafia which is a pirate like action operates in Cairo, with stations at Wadi Khaled and last station in Beirut, is a good hard currency's resource.
- On the 14th March and 18th April national day in solidarity with south Lebanon. President Hrawi is to address the Lebanese tomorrow evening. Prime minister Hariri will attend the rallies held in Beirut. The two days will be allocated for south issue and will be televised by all stations also on the satellite. The activities on the two days will include fairs and exhibitions, posters and rallies, churches and mosques to ring bells and rise Azan allover Lebanon, also many other activities.
- Canadian consular affairs' official and Lebanese judges representing the justice ministry, discussed at a meeting held yesterday in Beirut, a bilateral agreement on consular services, aimed to regulate the transfer of children out of any of the two countries without the approval of the parents.
- Egyptian remaining giant singer Sayyed Mikkawi, who is still at the American university hospital in Beirut, hospitalised since a month ago, from a chest pain or cardiac problem, is at an intensive care unit. Physicians hope he will gain again his voice .
-Lebanese university lecturers in another two day strike and sit in as of today want to remind government to see to their demands and grievances.
-Lebanon's basketball results and round-up for the seventh and eighth rounds:
Riyadi 24, Tadamoun 22, Hikmeh 22, Antranik 20 , Shabab 18, Kahraba 16, Ihya'a 16, Annibal 14, Riyadi B.M 12
-Abnaa Nebtune 12, Wardieh 8, Mont La Salle 8,
- Sierra leone soccer player Mohammed lawson, who played for Nijmeh club in Lebanon, already left Beirut signing a $50 thousand pledge not to play to other than Nejmeh in Lebanon or out of Sierra leone. He received all his due allowances before departure. Lawson had signed a complaint, with other foreign player, claiming they are facing racial discrimination and not paid their due rights in Lebanon.
- Homentmen will play with Nijmeh today at Tripoli stadium in the 25th week of the Lebanese football cup. The two clubs will compete to win the second rank with Nijmeh having 6 points more than Homentmen. At Burj Hammoud, the Ansar and Burj will play today with Ansar now on top of the table. At Safa stadium the Safa will play with the Racing.
[ Lebanon.com Weekly Business Reports ]
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